It was a chilly Monday morning, but for seventy-five Tacoma first graders, it was still the perfect day to learn about the environment.

Students from Sherman Elementary recently went on a field trip to the Port of Tacoma’s Lower Wapato Creek habitat site to plant trees and learn about the importance of Wapato Creek in salmon recovery.

Visitors at Wapato Creek Habitat site

Puyallup Tribe of Indians Council Member Annette Bryan joins Maya's family for a photo at the Lower Wapato Creek Habitat Site.

The field trip was inspired by a letter from a first-grade student named Maya to Jennifer Keating at the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. In her letter, Maya said, “I have a science project to learn about salmon. To help the salmon, I want to plant trees at the Lower Wapato Creek site. We could even invite others.”

“After receiving the letter, Puyallup Tribe staff contacted Maya’s teacher to discuss the possibilities and then we were happy to work with Port staff to put together an inspiring and informative field trip for the students,” said Jennifer Keating, Land Use Manager and Assistant Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Puyallup Tribe of Indians.

“Port staff was thrilled to be included and to work together with Puyallup Tribe staff to help make this event happen,” said Kristin Evered, a biologist at the Port of Tacoma.

Tree planting event at Wapato Creek.

And on that cold Monday morning, the students arrived ready to dig in.

Three learning stations were assembled at the site. In addition to a tree planting activity hosted by the Port, staff from the Puyallup Tribe led two other interactive learning stations to impart valuable place-based lessons about the cultural significance of the site and salmon conservation.

Joining in on the fun were a number of class chaperones, teachers, Port Commissioners, and Puyallup Tribal Council member Annette Bryan, who welcomed the students when they arrived.

“Thank you to the Puyallup Tribe and the Port for making this event happen. It was a fantastic opportunity for our kids to get outdoors and have a hands-on learning experience alongside their classmates,” said Lauren Oak, Maya’s first grade teacher. “It’s wonderful to see the kids connect the learnings about trees, salmon, the creek and the site.”

“We're grateful to the Puyallup Tribe for their partnership in creating this important habitat site,” said Deanna Keller, Port of Tacoma Commission President. “It was great to see all the students out there, I hope the experience created a lasting impression and helped to inspire a future generation of environmental stewards.”

The students clearly enjoyed being outdoors, the lessons about the site and planting the trees. Maya summed up the day with another inspirational plan for the future, “If we come back with some of our friends as grown-ups, we can show them and say that we planted it.”